In the same week in which Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement another Mumbaikar announced his and although the announcement did not get as much coverage. It was the retirement of Ajit Agarkar that is being discussed and it was not surprising that his announcement remained a footnote in the grander scheme of things. However, if any Indian cricket fan looks back at his career then the only thing that would grip him would be a sense of frustration and wistfulness, since Agarkar was a cricketer who promised a lot when he first came along and although his retirement at the age of 35 is not premature, it is hard to believe he has reached that age due to his prolonged absence from the Indian team.
If there ever was an Indian fast bowler who ‘burst’ on to the scene then it was Ajit Agarkar who reached 50 ODI wickets in record time to smash a long standing record held by none other than the former Aussie great Dennis Lillee. He was a bowler who could bowl some unplayable deliveries like he showed in that Test match in Adelaide in 2003, when his haul of 6 wickets set up the game for India but on the other hand he could be culpable for bowling so poorly that he could cost India an ODI or a Test match on his own. He was primarily a member of the ODI team and in spite of the fact that he was regarded as a non starter by popular opinion; both Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly gave him a fair go. In fact, even Rahul Dravid rated him; otherwise he would not have been a part of the tour of England in 2007.
He got 288 wickets in 190 ODIs and that is a record that cannot be sniffed at but his regular meltdowns in the face of an onslaught perhaps made him a bowler who was easier to target for opposition batsmen. In addition to that, his expertise with the bat meant that he forever remained a cricketer who was looked upon as a possible world class all rounder that India could never produce after perhaps Manoj Prabhakar. Although he holds the record for the fastest half century by an Indian, the team could never depend on his contributions. However, he would forever be remembered for his string of ducks against the Australians in Tests and promptly he was given the derisory nickname of ‘Bombay Duck’. On the other hand, he did get a century at Lord’s and hence his name would forever be there in the famous Honour’s Board in which Sachin Tendulkar could not get his name.
Ajit Agarkar would forever be remembered as the cricketer who had it in him to be a match winner for India for many years and it is indeed unfortunate that he could not replicate the brilliance he showed in some games on a regular basis. Perhaps he himself thinks the same.